One of the things that I was most excited about in regards to moving out to Virginia was all of the history that we would get to take in. The east coast of America is pretty rich with it. From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, you are constantly being presented with a part of our nation’s history. Also, much of this requires very little driving in order to see it.
One case in particular presented itself last night. Sydney and I went out for a walk to check out the Patrick Henry Memorial and see what all was there.
For those of you who are not familiar, Patrick Henry was one of our founding fathers and was highly influential in propelling our nation forward in our war of independence from England. His famous line, “give me liberty or give me death” was a catalyst for the freedom that we still enjoy today.
The Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Home (where I work and live) is less than 1/2 mile up the road from the memorial where Henry’s home sits as well as where he and his family are buried. The memorial is on Henry’s plantation named Red Hill. Patrick Henry was a slave owner and, along with some family, owned 100 slaves in all. The plantation grew tobacco and was worked solely by the slaves. It was interesting to see this with Sydney because she actually had quite a few questions to ask in regards to who he was and why he was important.
While his treatment of the slaves is not documented, it was noted that, after the Civil War, many of the freed slaves remained on the plantation as paid laborers. While this somewhat indicates that the conditions of their enslavement may have been somewhat favorable since they chose to stay that may or may not be the case.
Tabitha Sill stated to me yesterday that,
“On one hand they got paid a tad of money, but on the other hand staying likely wasn’t for all the reasons we’d be comfortable thinking. They hadn’t been allowed an education or an opportunity for success in a world where freedom was still a matter of opinion. The white & black culture were so different. For a black person to succeed in a white world he/she would have had to be brilliant, incredibly brave, and innovative to the core. Staying wasn’t because life was wonderful. It was all they knew and leaving had no certainty for safety, food, or even life.”
Sydney and I found the family gravesight where Patrick and his wife, Dorothea, are buried. There are a handful of other plots here as well but this is the only one that I photographed.
We were able to spend a decent amount of time on the property before it started to get dark and we had to walk back home. One of the things that facinated me the most was what we found back in the woods. There was a trail that you could follow that led back to an old slave cemetary. Along the way, you encountered a tobacco curing house as well as a few other things that were marked along the trail.
At the end of the trail, we found this little cemetary. There was only one marked grave among the scattering of rocks that littered the ground marking the dead. The one marked grave was for a woman named Matilda Pannel.
Not much was known about Matilda. She was born in 1861 and died in 1923. They are unsure of what her maiden name was but did know that, after marrying, she had 16 children. Of all the things that I saw here, this is what fascinated me the most. Who was this woman? She did not lead a revolution against another country. Many people probably did not even know her by name. Yet, here she lies, the only person in this cemetary with a name.
Thanks for reading today friends. Feel free to comment. I would love the conversation.